The new millennium brought the loss of the most eminent American historian of modern France. Gordon Wright, emeritus professor of history at Stanford University, died on the 11th of January in his California home.
Gordon Wright (1912-2000)
The Paradox of French Anti-Americanism
“Those damned French!” That was President Eisenhower’s reaction back in 1954 when the French National Assembly killed an American-sponsored scheme for a European defense force.1 Almost 50 years later, Senator John McCain, in an off-the-cuff remark during the election primary last year, referred to a minor diplomatic dustup as “one of the many reasons I hate the French.”2 In Washington today such language, at least voiced by officials in public, is extremely rare. But the French, inadvertently to be sure, often seem to provide ample cause for such antipathy. Today, as in the early years of the cold war, the French have taken the lead in bashing the United States.
The Deteriorating Image of the United States, 2000-2004
What do the French think of Americans and the United States? This is a grand question whose answer reveals a crucial dimension of the current tension in Franco-American relations. It is also a question that can be answered reasonably well. Transatlantic troubles have stirred interest in ascertaining the state of public opinion. The result is an extraordinary number of comprehensive surveys conducted over the last five years. The US Department of State, for example, has systematically monitored French attitudes. So have many French and American polling agencies like SOFRES, CSA, and the Pew Center. Foundations like the French-American Foundation and the German Marshall Fund of the US have also sponsored research. Between fifteen and twenty thousand Frenchmen and women have recorded their opinion in such surveys. This evidence provides a unique opportunity for research into how the man- or woman-in-the-street views the United States.